Written by: Mark Millar
Art by: Goran Parlov
I’ve long maintained that Mark Millar is a really good writer that doesn’t usually get the accolades he deserves because of his persona and the fact that his writing is almost always viewed as cynical, violent, and exploitative. These are all things that stick in the craw of many readers, and leads to the actual merit of his writing becoming a clouded topic.With Starlight, Millar has crafted a story that still feels very much in line with his unique sensibilities while not making use of the many controversial tactics that he often employs to get his point across. In catching up with the series recently, I found myself expecting that “out there” Millar flair at every step, but, instead, was continually surprised to be reading what can only be described as a heartfelt tribute to old school scifi such as John Carter of Mars and the merits of heroism.
This story of the return of an Earthling hero to the planet he saved, 40 years after the fact, plays out exactly as most readers would probably expect were it not for the fact that Millar’s name is on the cover. Millar could have approached this story in any number of ways, but he obviously set out to tell this specific story in this specific manner. As with previous issues, there are lots of great moments here that place this story among some of the better iterations of this type of scifi. Duke McQueen already feels right at home next to the likes of John Carter and Buck Rogers (but not Duck Dodgers. Oh no. He’s on a completely different, elevated plain). Seeing McQueen roll into the citadel of an alien despot in a ’72 Mustang absolutely put a smile on my face. Millar also keeps the dialogue snappy at all times. Going from witty dissections of the heroic one liner to touching moments without any of it coming across as fluff. The book has a number of truly poignant moments, but there are others that seem to be going through the paces and, in turn, feel somewhat middling. In addition, the tertiary characters don’t get a whole lot of development, leaving me wishing that this series was longer, but that selective development is also in line with the kind of story Millar is telling here.
The art, by Goran Parlov, has been consistent throughout the series; though there is, sadly, some drop-off in quality in a few of the more busy segments of this issue. As with the writing, the art feels perfectly suited to the story. Parlov’s strong line work and the minimal shading provide the book with an appropriate retro-future aesthetic that is right in line with the works it’s likely to be associated with. He also does a great job keeping the book moving and alive. All of the action feels well paced and kinetic, even in the sections where those sections where the overall quality dips slightly.
I find myself conflicted regarding how well Millar’s usual vivisection style approach would have served the story as a whole instead of the more earnest take we got. I’m sure that Millar’s detractors will still have their own takes on the merits of how he chooses to tell his stories, but I found a lot to enjoy in Starlight, and that seems like more important than turning the vivisection in the direction of the author right now.